One cannot think of the security in Afghanistan without the contribution that the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) has made.
The past several years of cooperation between Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and their international partners have been vital in this regard. Much of this cooperation has enabled the ANSF to maintain a decisive technological advantage over the enemies of peace. As ISAF transitions to a train, advise, and assist role, it expects to continue enabling the Afghan security forces in the future.
As the security forces of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan now have the primary role of providing security around the country, the development of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is one of the main focuses. The rugged terrain of the country makes aircraft essential for everything from evacuating casualties and moving troops to supplying outlying bases. Both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft will be necessary for the ANSF to deploy soldiers and police, deliver equipment, support medical evacuations and perform reconnaissance missions.
The Afghan Air Force has more than 100 military aircraft. They operate rotary wing aircraft, including Mi-17 cargo helicopters, Mi-35 attack helicopters as well as various fixed wing aircrafts, as well as two C-130 cargo planes, with two more expected to be delivered in 2014, flown by US trained Afghan pilots.
“They’re trained by our (US) standards; they are trained at Little Rock Air Force Base, which is the same place I send our C-130 pilots,” says US Air Force Brig Gen John Michel, Commander NATO Air Training Command Afghanistan.
Increasingly, Afghan trainers are proving capable of imparting knowledge and skills on to Afghan students, depending less on ISAF trainers. Major Farid, a helicopter flight simulator trainer in Kabul, says they have been conducting training without an ISAF mentor. “We are looking for good crew coordination. They make a decision on what time we will take off, the heading, the fuel,” he says.
By 2016, the AAF is expected to number more than 8,000 personnel, working in 60 specialties, with approximately 140 aircraft. Some of the aircraft operated by the AAF are purchased by contract, while many have been donated by international partners.
Support and capability is not limited to the air force. Everything from mortars, howitzers, and ammunition to clothing and academic supplies have been provided. Whether security depends on air capability or the ability to better find and disarm improvised explosive devices, the commitment of the international community is clear. Afghanistan does not stand alone.